Reporter 446, 7 February 2000

Desserts and deserts decided

Have giant, out-of-town, supermarkets stripped inner-city Leeds of cheap, nutritious food and left people living in 'food deserts'? A team of geography researchers are launching a major research project in the city to find out.

Many people believe the demise of local butchers’ and fruit shops have stranded those living in the poorest areas in Britain with little or no access to a balanced diet. Dr Graham Clarke’s research will identify such food deserts in Leeds, Bradford and Cardiff.

"Not all socially deprived areas or even those that are the most deprived can be viewed as food deserts," said Dr Clarke.

"The peculiarities of the retail development process, different land use and the complex network of roads and public transport in British cities means ‘food deserts’ can't simply be read off maps of socially deprived districts."

The project also involves researchers at Cardiff and Southampton universities and is backed by the ESRC and J Sainsbury plc. The work is timed to coincide with the opening of another brand new supermarket development - this time located bang in the middle of what is perceived as a quintessential food desert. Tesco is planning to open a new store in the Seacroft area of Leeds later this year. Around 500 households living nearby will be surveyed before and after it opens to analyse what food they buy and the difference this makes to the family diet.

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